From the New Scientist:
Sweden calls for a ban on cluster bombs
The first global assessment of cluster weapons, released today, estimates they have killed or wounded about 100,000 people worldwide since they entered widespread use in the 1960s – 98% of them civilians.
The assessment, published by Handicap International (HI), comes one week before arms talks in Geneva, where Sweden will propose a ban on cluster weapons.
The move has gained momentum in recent weeks after reports of civilians killed and maimed by the weapons in Lebanon.
Cluster weapons are bombs or shells that contain dozens of small explosive “submunitions”, designed to scatter over a wide area and then explode.
But an estimated 10% fail to explode, and remain lurking in places where people live and work, injuring civilians sometimes years after a conflict is over. One-third of the casualties are children.
There have been moves to ban these weapons for several years. But the campaign has been hampered by the fact that the exact damage caused by cluster munitions had never been measured.
Today’s assessment includes 11,044 reliably confirmed casualties in the 23 countries where cluster munitions have been used.
“And today we can add another 800 to that number,” HI researcher Katleen Maes told New Scientist, as newly confirmed case reports have come in from Iraq.
Nevertheless, that is a gross underestimate, she says. The true number of killed and wounded may be around 100,000.
Most countries do not record people hurt by submunitions separately from those hurt by other “explosive remnants of war”, she explains.
This estimate is important because existing international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions and the Conventional Weapons Treaty, whose members meet in Geneva next week, already ban weapons that kill indiscriminately, and harm non-combatants.
“We think cluster weapons should already be illegal because of those treaties, says Angelo Simonazzi, head of HI. “But the best thing might be a separate treaty, like the one banning landmines.”
Sweden, backed by Austria, Mexico and New Zealand, plans to propose separate measures banning cluster munitions under the Conventional Weapons Treaty.
Belgium banned their use and export this year; Australia and Norway have a moratorium on their use; and Germany says it will stop using them.
The US, the UK, China and Russia oppose a ban, however. All produce cluster weapons.
The UK opposes the Swedish move, insisting that existing humanitarian law is enough, and weapons designers should instead try harder to make submunitions that do not fail to explode.
Renewed attention has been focused on cluster weapons after Israel used them in Lebanon during July and August 2006.
Pressure group Landmine Action claims that many of the submunitions were old, and thus more likely to not explode on impact. Since then, about three people per day are reported to have been injured.
But in its report, Handicap International notes that Hezbollah also used cluster munitions. At least 13 people were killed or wounded by these, the report claims.
See also here.
UN anti-mine programme faces cuts: here.
History of wars and machismo in Europe: here.
*Time for Rumsfeld to go*
The San Francisco Chronicle
Nov. 3, 2006
“So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and
informed public opinion … it is necessary to tell the hard bruising
That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent
Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War.
But until recently, the “hard bruising” truth about the Iraq war has
been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy
reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice
President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “mission
accomplished,” the insurgency is “in its last throes,” and “back off,”
we know what we’re doing, are a few choice examples.
Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired
generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines, inciting
criticism equally from anti-war types, who thought they should have
spoken out while still in uniform, and pro-war foes, who thought the
generals should have kept their critiques behind closed doors.
Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate.
Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the
war’s planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.
Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate
Armed Services Committee in September: “I believe that the sectarian
violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it … and that if not stopped,
it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war.”
Last week, someone leaked to The New York Times a Central Command
briefing slide showing an assessment that the civil conflict in Iraq now
borders on “critical” and has been sliding toward “chaos” for most of
the past year. The strategy in Iraq has been to train an Iraqi army and
police force that could gradually take over for U.S. troops in providing
for the security of their new government and their nation.
But despite the best efforts of American trainers, the problem of
molding a viciously sectarian population into anything resembling a
force for national unity has become a losing proposition.
For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the
Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of
national identity, are only in it for the money, don’t show up for duty
and cannot sustain themselves.
Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more
troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.
And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.
Now, the president says he’ll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his
term in the White House.
This is a mistake.
It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has
failed. But when the nation’s current military leaders start to break
publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is
losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.
These officers have been loyal public promoters of a war policy many
privately feared would fail. They have kept their counsel private,
adhering to more than two centuries of American tradition of
subordination of the military to civilian authority.
And although that tradition, and the officers’ deep sense of honor,
prevent them from saying this publicly, more and more of them believe
Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the
troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has
failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame
for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops
who bear its brunt.
This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins
Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising
Donald Rumsfeld must go.
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